The Yahoo! telecommuting ban story may be more nuanced than we know.

Marissa Mayer Is Wrong.” “Horrible Bosses: Marissa Mayer’s Ban on Telecommuting at Yahoo Wont Work.” “Marissa Mayer’s Work-From-Home Ban Is the Exact Opposite of What CEOs Should Be Doing.” These headlines reflect popular responses in the blogosphere to the Yahoo CEO’s decision to end work-from-home arrangements companywide.

I can understand what’s behind these opinions. Mayer’s announcement of Yahoo’s new telecommuting ban comes when many companies are moving in the opposite direction, for two reasons. First, multiple studies have validated the fact that home-based workers are more productive than office workers under most circumstances. Second, studies have also shown that it’s more profitable for companies to increase retention of women and move them into senior roles. Though workplace flexibility is not exclusively a women’s issue, these facts have led many employers to increase work-from-home options, not decrease them. According to the Families and Work Institute, 63 percent of employers allow telecommuting, almost double the percentage from 2005.

That said, I’m not sure we can judge Mayer so harshly at the front end of her decision. There may be more to this story than meets the eye. She was brought in to try to help a company in need of a turnaround. She’s a star in the industry, recruited for her track record. Can’t we trust that maybe she’s making the decision for reasons we don’t know? As the CEO who has come in and done an analysis of her company, she’s made the decision that at this time, there is a specific need for face-to-face interaction and collaboration on a daily basis for the future success of her company. I would give her the ability to do what she thinks she needs to do without judgment.

I say this even while knowing that Mayer’s decision runs counter to what we’ve learned from our work at Bentley’s Center for Women and Business — that companies that are trying to retain, support, and promote women focus on creating flexibility programs and opportunities to work from home, not on cutting them. Yet we’ve also learned that the same strategies don’t work for every company or every industry at every point in time. The center is all about helping organizations go from conversation to action, and showing possible action steps. One of them is creating a flexible workplace. But you also have to give companies the ability to make the decision about what works for what they’re trying to accomplish, what the culture needs, and what they need to do to create a turnaround. And then we as workers need to say, is that the culture that works for my life?

For the rest of the article, visit Bentley University’s IMPACT blog.

Is There More to the Marissa Mayer Story?
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